Why it Matters
In an age of cyber-bullying, revenge porn, hate sites and inadequate online privacy laws, everyone needs the power to understand and protect their personal brand and reputation on the web. The Respect Campaign was overwhelmed during 2017 with the number of emails we received from Netizens wanting to know how to remove harmful content online. Particularly those who have stayed silent and found their voices again thanks to the #metoo movement that continues to sweep the globe and ushered in a new era of not tolerating such behaviours anymore.
We still have a long, long way to go.
Although we are seeing some laws enacted for content like revenge porn we are not seeing a uniform code of civil conduct online yet and women in particular, (although many, many other groups are also impacted) are often subject to harmful cyberhate trolling and hate sites. We understand the impact this can have on your career, life and mental health.
No one is immune to this vile conduct which can unleash unimaginable economic and social damage not to mention the pain and suffering it causes, from university students to young professionals and even seasoned C Level Executives, a damaging social post or Google result could impact your life for many years to come.
A great source of information is BrandYourself University and the following tips are taken from a relevant whitepaper.
Ongoing online reputation management is now important for everyone for three main reasons:
- Anyone can say anything about you online without getting in trouble, even if it’s not true. This can ruin your career and/or personal life and there’s little you can do about it. It happens all the time, and more laws protect the publishers in these situations than you – the target. When you combine this with the fact that employers, customers and even dates increasingly screen you online for negative information, you can imagine how this may seriously affect you.
- 73% of American adults have witnessed online harassment, and 70% of young Americans say they have been victims themselves — Pew Research Center
- Experts predict that as many as 40% of all Americans will be digitally shamed — Hate Crimes in Cyberspace
- This year, The Repsect Camapign hosted the first Cyber Health and Safety Summit and the personal case studies we heard were overwhelming – from the blogger in the U.S who had to start her career again to the Woman who inspired the book Google Bomb, stories abound of online hate and ripple effect it unleashes. Dr Emma Jane, called this a new form of economic vandalism.
- Everything we do is now recorded online forever, which means we need more tools to make sure this doesn’t harm us. Everything we post on Facebook or Twitter and every item we search for, website we visit, online transaction we make and conversation we have through text or messenger exists somewhere. A Facebook status update you made year ago may eventually get you fired. In addition to the very real threat of hackers, outdated laws that have not kept up with Technology — like the ECPA — make it easier than ever for people to access information you thought was private.
- Having good content online helps you, but most people don’t know how to do it: In an increasingly competitive economy, more and more companies, schools and customers are looking for positive information about you on the web. However, most people don’t know what they can do to increase the positive footprint they can have on the web.
Whether you’re combating a negative search result or looking to protect your personal brand online, the solution is to follow the same 3-Step process.
3 Steps to Control Your Online Reputation
- Build a foundation of high-quality websites & profiles – take the time to audit your existing presence
- Establish authority for your websites & profiles in search engines
- Maintain relevance by updating your websites & profiles over time
1. Build the foundation
The first step is to create the high-quality sites, profiles, and content that you want people to find when they search for your name online. Since search results show 10 or more items per page, we recommend building at least one high-quality website and 10 to 12 high-quality profiles about yourself to have the best chance of controlling your first page of Google results.
a) Build your personal website
Why you need a website
- When well-optimized, it can be the highest ranking result that you control
- It acts as the hub of your entire online presence – think of your online presence like a series of digital embassies
- It looks impressive to clients, employers and anyone else searching for you
b) Build 10-12 high-quality profiles:
We recommend the following 12 profiles: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, about.me, CrunchBase, Slideshare, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo and Quora
Why you need these 12 profiles:
After tracking millions of search results for our users, we found that these twelve profiles tend to rank the highest in search engines when well-optimized. They also allow you to publish high-quality content that you control
2. Establish authority
Search engines are designed to display only the most useful search results. They do so by analyzing hundreds of factors. Once you’ve started to define your personal brand through creating your sites and profiles, you must take steps to help them establish authority. In this case, “authority” refers to the value that search engines assign to sites.
The better the search result ranking, the greater the authority of that site. By optimizing your properties, continually publishing content and engaging with audiences, you increase the authority of your sites and profiles.
Below, we’ve included some of the most important steps you can take to make sure your site and profiles are search engine optimized to improve their chances of ranking highly.
a) Ensure your sites give visitors thorough & useful information
Search engines will rank a website or profile higher if it’s filled with relevant, high-quality information that is continually updated over time. The reason? They want to make sure that users have a positive experience by getting the best results when they type in a particular search term.
Write content that is:
- Useful: Create posts with information that your audience can apply to their own lives
- Thorough: Cover topics as in-depth as possible, and make sure to cite your sources
- Unique: Stand out from the crowd by honing your voice and angle – people want to hear you
- Relevant: Keep up with current topics to show you’re part of the conversation in your industry
- Updated Regularly: Update both your sites & profiles to show search engines credibility and to give a reason for your audience to return.
Remember, search engines and users alike won’t find value in sites and profiles that are filled with duplicate, irrelevant, unoriginal or outdated content. Profiles and sites that share very little information add zero value to your online presence.
b) Link your sites & profiles to each other & to other authoritative sources
Each link to your site counts as a “vote” that your site should rank higher. Votes from sites that are already popular – like major news sites, blogs, etc – carry more weight. Create and promote great content that other people will want to share. This will naturally earn links from other authoritative sources.
How your content links together can also help everything collectively rank higher. Your websites and profiles should link to each other – but not haphazardly. The way you interlink them is extremely important as it indicates to search engines & searchers that the content is related and relevant.
c) Create websites & profiles that are easy for humans & search engines to access
Build sites that:
Load quickly: For a great user experience & to prevent search engine penalties, don’t publish: oversized images, long/uncompressed videos or other heavy files. This and other factors will slow down your site’s load time and irritate your site’s visitors.
Are easy to read: The language you use & format you choose should encourage users to keep scrolling. Use succinct and active sentences and avoid site designs that are overly complicated. Incorporate visual aids and content to make your points clearer when possible.
Are easy to navigate: Easy navigation lets users find what they’re looking for & also helps search engines index site information. The code and structure of your website should make it easy for search engines to crawl, index & rank it.
- If search engines can’t follow links to access your pages (or “crawl” them), they have no way of knowing your pages exist. This is a surefire way to prevent your webpages from showing up in search results at all.
- Improper use of “robots code” can prevent search engines from indexing the pages. “Robots code” or “robots.txt files” act as instructions on a webpage for the crawlers sent out to gather information for search engines. Don’t accidentally include a robots.txt file on your site that blocks search engines from gathering information from your site.
These are just two examples of technical issues with your code that can prevent your webpages from ranking as high as they should in your search results. As we mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of on-page factors that can influence the success of your website.
Look great on mobile devices: Today, nearly half of all Google searches occur on a smartphone or tablet. So it’s no surprise that in April of 2015, Google released a new ranking algorithm (often referred to as “Mobilegeddon”) that rewarded mobile-friendly pages with higher rankings in their mobile search results. Search engines know how important readability is to the user experience, and will penalize your search rankings if your webpages are difficult to access.
d) Engage audiences
A major factor in developing a robust and positive online presence is your level of quality interactions with others online. When it comes to building a successful personal brand, you won’t get anywhere without engaging with others.
Engage with your audience on your website
It’s true, your website should be a hub about who you are. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a way to engage with others. Make visits to your site a positive experience from a technical and design standpoint.
Additionally, help your audience connect with you directly when they visit your site. Whether that means enabling a comments section on your blog posts, including an email address, or links to your top social media profiles – find a way to connect with your audience!
Make sure that you are writing posts that are unique, entertaining and valuable for your audience. The blog component of your website should be easy to share on other sites and social media platforms. And, if your website doesn’t allow for that much direct engagement (outside of the comments section), then make sure that you are sharing your posts on platforms that do let you engage with others.
Engage with your audience on social media platforms
When it comes to your social media profiles, find communities interested in what it is that you have to say. Start looking for existing groups or build out your own online community around similar interest areas. By connecting with others through the content that you create, your influence and chances of ranking well in search engine results increase.
3. Maintain relevance
Building and optimizing your foundation is a great start, but not enough to achieve long-term changes to your search results. To improve your search results and make the changes stick, you need to consistently update your webpages and show activity over time.
a) Actively engage, post, and interact on your social profiles
A strong social media profile is completely filled out and kept active with relevant content.
- Complete all sections: Whether it’s a personal biography or the interests section – fill it out!
- Regularly update your profiles: This is great for your brand and a search engine friendly tactic
- Share relevant and timely information: Keep users interested & engaged with this type of info
- Connect with others in your industry: Users with shared interests will likely find value in what you share
The worst thing you could do for a profile is to let it go stagnant. From a branding perspective, being inactive on a profile suggests that it’s not really a place for others to connect with you, and that you are not involved in the conversation within your industry.
From an SEO perspective, a profile that hasn’t been updated in a while implies that it’s not very valuable. By not engaging regularly, search engines may view your profile as spam. This is one more reason why we suggest that you only focus on building these 10-12 profiles instead of creating hundreds of profiles just for the sake of volume.
Search engines like Google are getting smarter by the day and in the case of professional profiles, quality is more important than quantity.
b) Publish a blog post once per month
In addition to staying active on social media, it’s important to regularly update your website by publishing new content. Blogging is one of the best ways to keep your website active. Keep in mind that this content should be high quality, well-written and original in order to yield the best results in rankings.
Publish blog posts that are:
- Well-written: Always edit your blog posts for spelling & grammatical errors, cite sources and link to relevant sites
- Original: Avoid copy & pasting articles and content from other places without adding your own commentary or acknowledging where it came from
- Lengthy (500+ words): Search engines like Google tend to view longer pieces (ideally 1,500 words or more) as being more credible. It’s better to spend your time on 1 in-depth post per month than to churn out low-quality shorter posts every week
- Relevant: Publish content about current topics to engage with users, identify yourself as a current voice in your field, and to show search engines that you are updating your site regularly
When writing your blog posts, the quality, length, and originality are all factors in properly engaging with your audience and in enhancing your overall online presence in terms of search engine rankings
c) Create rich media once per month
Regularly creating rich media, like videos and presentations, is an important step in improving your online reputation for a few reasons. Rich media is easy to share on social media platforms. This type of content-driven engagement can potentially drive traffic to your sites, boost your profile’s rankings, and even rank on its own.
We recommend including rich media in as much of your other content as possible. For example, include an image in your next Twitter post or embed a video in your blog post this month.
Create rich media because it:
- Is shareable: Pictures, videos, presentations & more are instantly understood & shared
- Can rank individually: Publishing rich media is a great opportunity to generate more positive results
- Complements written posts: Make rich media that enhances written posts & follows your brand message
- Drives traffic to your site and profiles: Humor, compelling data & visuals will increase your site visitors
Rich media can be fairly simple to produce and is easily consumed, this makes it ideal when considering ways to create original and engaging work for your site and profiles.
Tools That Help You Monitor Your Brand
Tool 1: Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a free service provided by Google. Google is one of the best when it comes to crawling the Internet for information. For them, Google Alerts is a nice service to provide users and kit does a pretty good job of finding names, phrases and keywords published anywhere that the Googlebot can access.
You need Google account and a Gmail address to take advantage of Google Alerts. The first alert to set up is the one for your name; Enter your name inside quotes. This ensures that you’ll only get alerts for your exact name and not instances where your first name appears in one location on a page and your last name somewhere else on the same page. The default settings for receiving alerts are good. You’ll get updates once a day from everywhere and anywhere your name is mentioned online. If you’d like you can set up the alerts to go to your inbox as-they-happen, which is fine if you don’t get too many results. There are however limitations with Google Alerts. You only get alerts for information that Googlebot can access so information behind passwords, like on social networks, is not detectable so you won’t know when you’re mentioned on those types of sites in some cases.
Tool 2: Radian6
Radian6 was a standalone monitoring software that was acquired by Salesforce in 2011. The service allows you to rtak mentions of your name and other keywords throughout the website on millions of different sites including sites like Facebook and Twitter. It also tracks things like blog comments, forum posts and more. You can input the same information that you would in Google Alerts including your name, etc.
Tool 3: Mention
Mention is another social monitoring tool. It’s a standalone tool that works like Google Alerts, but aims to go further than a free service. Although, with Mention you can get your first alert for free so you can track mentions of your name throughout the web including some social media sites for no cost.
Tool 4: Talkwalker
Talkwalker is another monitoring tool. You can enter your name like other tools, but you can also enter relevant topics unique to your expertise. When something becomes popular in your area of expertise you can quickly offer to write guest posts for popular websites since they’ll be looking for hot topic items for their sites.
Tool 5: Hootsuite
Hootsuite is an entire social media management tool. You can track different mentions of your name on social media, but you can also manage each of your social profiles through the tool by sending updates, responses and more. With Hootsuite you can really combine all your social efforts into one platform
Tool 6: Moz Fresh Alerts
MozFresh Alerts is part of the Moz software package and specifically part of Fresh Web Explorer. Fresh Alerts are meant to provide better results than you would get with Google Alerts. Moz recommends using the tool as a great way to build links. For example, when someone mentions your name on a blog post, forum etc, you can see it with Fresh Alerts and contact them asking if they would link to your personal website
Tool 7: Twitter Search
Finally, don’t overlook Twitter Search. When you’re logged in to your Twitter account you can use the search function to track any name, keyword or phrase mentioned within the social network. Obviously you can track your mentions on your Notifications Feed, but to track simple mentions of your name you need to use Twitter Search while searching for ‘your name’. Keeping it in quotes brings back exact results for your query. You can also search for your website and Blog URLs. This way you can see anytime when someone shares one of your pages or posts on Twitter without mentioning your Twitter handle.
Lastly, if you are in the midst of a cyberhate storm, please don’t try to do all of this yourself. Reach out to us at The Respect Campaign and we will do our best to help you and put you in touch with the relevant experts who can assist.